We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

Domestic Violence Debate

Domestic abuse survivor Bethzaida Garcia advocates that every church should offer safety and resources for victims.

ORLANDO, Florida — The Assemblies of God has added a fourth stipulation under which someone will be allowed to serve as a credentialed minister, elder, or deacon following a divorce and remarriage.

Until now, the General Council has permitted someone who is married but has a former living spouse to obtain ministerial credentials under limited circumstances. Those conditions have been restricted to when the divorce occurred before conversion; for adultery; and due to abandonment by a non-Christian spouse.

During business debate in Orlando, delegates voted to include a fourth exemption: when divorce results from domestic violence perpetuated on either the spouse or a child.

The resolution, sponsored by the General Presbytery and Executive Presbytery, stated that “a pattern of domestic violence undermines the scriptural expectations of sacrificial love.” A multitude of New Testament commands “provide an implicit foundation for marriage and reveal an antithesis to domestic violence and abuse,” the proposal stated.

While acknowledging that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), the resolution noted that the Lord also abhors humans perpetuating violence on other people (Psalm 11:5, Proverbs 6: 16-17). Citing Psalm 146:5-9 and Isaiah 1:16-17, the resolution said “God’s heart is toward those who are oppressed and against the oppressor,” and qualified those running for their lives from a violent spouse as being oppressed.

Someone who has divorced after such abuse by a spouse isn’t necessarily disqualified from ministry, the resolution stated: “The use of the ecclesiastical annulment has not lessened the need for the applicant to have a divine call, solid integrity, sound doctrine, and fullness of the Spirit.”

The proposal sparked considerable debate.

Opponents all said they don’t advocate a victim of domestic violence staying in the home. They cited 1 Corinthians 7:15 as justification for fleeing an abusive situation.

Some faulted the resolution for not providing a scriptural basis for remarrying, saying Jesus didn’t teach that divorce is allowed except for adultery.

Executive Presbyter Terry L. Yancey, who is Kansas District superintendent, said when those with a ministry calling on their lives are rejected because of divorce, “it feels like a fresh victimization.” Robert W. Fiscus of Garland, Texas, also spoke in favor of the plan, likening physical violence in a marriage to committing adultery as well as abandonment.

The resolution passed with a majority vote.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.